CHOOSING A CAREER / DEC. 11, 2014
version 5, draft 5

How to Become a Chief Knowledge Officer in the US

business
istock

Knowledge management is an important function in both small and large organizations. It not only facilitates decision-making, but also enhances the professional know-how of employees. Chief knowledge officers (CKOs) are top executives tasked with managing the use of knowledge in an organization. They are, for instance, the reason many companies have support programs for employees pursuing advanced degrees.

If you are a passionate learner who believes knowledge is the key to success, this is a job you could enjoy.

What Do Chief Knowledge Officers Do?

The typical duties of CKOs include:

  • Developing and implementing knowledge management programs – This involves preventing loss of knowledge during organizational restructures
  • Identifying the knowledge resources – such as libraries – that an organization needs
  • Formulating unique ideas for employee training and development programs
  • Converting the company’s intellectual properties into assets that can generate revenue
  • Gathering the ‘strategic knowledge’ an organization needs to meet its objectives
  • Facilitating communication and sharing of knowledge within an organization
  • Encouraging learning and creative thinking among employees

It is essential to note the stark difference between CKOs and chief information officers. Whereas CIOs are concerned with technology, CKOs primarily deal with intellectual capital.

Work Environment

CKOs work in an office environment, from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Being senior employees, they attend frequent meetings with other top managers. As such, they travel regularly.

Salary

The average annual wage for chief knowledge officers is $149,498, according to Jobstat. The following table highlights the salaries for starting and experienced CKOs.

Job Level

Annual Wage

Starting CKOs

$79,463

Experienced CKOs

$239,033

Education Requirements

The education requirements for CKOs vary from employer to employer. One common requirement stands out though: advanced degrees.

So, how do you get started? The first thing is to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Since CKOs come from diverse academic backgrounds, you can secure a degree in any field. To improve your suitability to the job, pursue a degree in a field that is related to information management, such as:

  • Information studies
  • Library sciences
  • Law
  • Communications
  • Business administration

The next step is to pursue a master’s degree in knowledge management. Examples of schools offering this credential include:

Again, this is a top-level position that also requires a mastery of business management techniques. Pursuing an additional graduate certificate in business management can make you a stand-out candidate for this job.

Important Qualities

  • Superb leadership skills
  • Strong project management skills
  • A knowledge of education trends
  • The ability to inspire and motivate
  • Good analytical and planning skills
  • Good decision making and problem-solving skills
  • Good research skills
  • The willingness to keep learning
  • IT proficiency
  • Critical thinking skills.

Career Development

To be a successful CKO, you need to have an in-depth understanding of an organization’s culture, vision and objectives. Employers know this, too. Therefore, it is not surprising that aspiring CKOs work at a company for some time before progressing to fill this position.

Ideally, you should focus on finding a mid-level job in a company that has the CKO position within its structure and keep working until a vacancy occurs.

After getting hired, put effort in developing innovative knowledge utilization programs. Your competence will definitely improve the organization’s overall performance.

If you are ambitious enough, you can pursue further degrees in knowledge management or corporate governance.

You could also join professional organizations, such as the Senior Executives Association, to network with other CKOs and top managers.

Job Opportunities

CKOs can work in many types of private and public organizations including:

  • Education institutions
  • IT firms
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Financial services organizations
  • Government agencies

In time, you could progress to become a chief executive officer (CEO), especially if you pursue advanced courses in corporate governance.

Finally, this is a relatively new profession that is currently being embraced by many companies. According to the Ivey Business Journal, 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies already have full-time CKOs.

Although the job stats may not look promising today, the profession will be booming in a few years. So focus on obtaining the necessary qualifications.

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